H.E.R., Other Newcomers Dominate Oscar Best Song Category, Veterans Rule Best Score

Jon Burlingame
·3-min read

Nearly all of Oscar’s 2020 original-song nominees are newcomers, while only two of this morning’s original-score nominees are new to the competition.

Veteran songwriter Diane Warren earned her 12th nomination for “Io Sì (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead,” shared with singer and co-lyricist Laura Pausini. She must be seen as the front-runner, as she has never won in over three decades of nominations; and she won the Golden Globe on Feb. 28.

More from Variety

Leslie Odom Jr., also nominated this morning for playing singer Sam Cooke in “One Night in Miami,” earned a second nomination as the writer of that film’s closing song, “Speak Now,” shared with Sam Ashworth.

All of the other song nominees are first-timers at the Academy Awards. British composer Daniel Pemberton received a nod for “Hear My Voice” for the film he scored, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” shared with vocalist and co-writer Celeste.

H.E.R., fresh from her song of the year win at last night’s Grammys, was nominated (along with co-writers Dernst Emile II and Tiara Thomas) for “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

And the sole comedic song among the five, “Húsavik,” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” — by Savan Kotecha, Rickard Goransson and Fax Max Gsus — was also nominated. “Húsavik” is partly sung in Icelandic, while “Io Sì” is sung in Italian, an interesting twist in this year’s competition.

In the original score category, Emile Mosseri earned his first nomination for the music of “Minari” while Jon Batiste received his first for Pixar’s “Soul.”

Batiste shares the nomination with two veterans and previous winners: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who nabbed the gold statue for 2010’s “The Social Network.” They received two nominations this morning, for both “Soul” and the 1940s musical backdrop of “Mank.”

The “Soul” trio marks the first time since 1987 that Oscar’s music branch — which routinely limits score nominations to a maximum of two composers — has named three writers since 1987’s “The Last Emperor.” Batiste provided the jazz that was deemed integral to the story while Reznor and Ross supplied the more ethereal soundscape of the afterlife.

James Newton Howard received his ninth Oscar nomination, so far without a win, for the western “News of the World,” while Terence Blanchard earned his second nom for Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods.” He was previously nominated for 2018’s “BlackKklansman.”

All 10 nominees in the music categories were widely predicted, and none can be seen as surprises. Lolita Ritmanis had lately been emerging as a dark-horse possible fifth nominee for her score for the Latvian war film “Blizzard of Souls,” but it was not to be, perhaps because the film was not widely seen.

French composer Alexandre Desplat, a two-time Oscar winner, didn’t make the cut for his music for “The Midnight Sky.” And none of the documentary songs up for consideration (including Janelle Monae’s work for “All In,” Mary J. Blige’s tune for “Belly of the Beast” and John Legend’s song for “Giving Voice”) made the final five.

Interestingly, composer Kris Bowers (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”) earned an unusual nomination, for best documentary short subject, “A Concerto Is a Conversation,” shared with filmmaker Ben Proudfoot. The film tracks Bowers’ familly lineage through his 91-year-old grandfather from Jim Crow-era Florida to Bowers’ eventual success as a composer for film and TV.

The 375-member music branch chose the five finalists in each category from a shortlist of 15 films apiece.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.